Roto Arcade: Opening Day

In March, we're all about arranging players in neat columns. We rank and re-rank. We hype and un-hype. To the extent that it helps you draft – or helps you rationalize a pick for which you were mocked in the draft room – it's a nice thing to do. But in a 12-team mixed league, the draft really isn't so important.

Yeah, maybe we should've mentioned that before you bought the $8.95 fantasy preview magazine and the $9.99 draft kit. Sorry. Twelve rosters just aren't nearly enough to accommodate all the useful players, and this tends to devalue a draft. If you expect to win a competitive league, there's a lot of maintenance ahead. You can't be inert. Fantasy baseball is a game, and it's one that needs to be actively played if you're hoping to win. Thus the title of this recurring blog-ish feature, Roto Arcade. It's also a nod to Husker Du, not that you asked. My first choice was "Mario Roto," but only Reds fans would appreciate that.

Anyway, we're all about in-game fantasy strategy here. It's a game, so play it like a game. We'll troll for one-day adds and two-start pitchers. We'll discuss mid-week head-to-head tactics that many of you will find deplorable. We'll also try to be forward-looking; this isn't a what-happened-yesterday sort of feature. Here, we take risks. We'll look ahead. No doubt I'll recommend a few guys who will totally flop, but there'll be successes, too. And I'm not humble about them.

First things first, though. Let's revisit the idea that in a standard public configuration, the draft is only marginally important. No matter what sort of auto-picked wreck of a team you're managing, there's hope. It's distressing to see "1B Nick Johnson DL" and "SP Mark Prior NA" on your roster, sure. But think of an auto-picked player as an arranged marriage. And you're a sixteenth century English monarch. So if Nick Johnson can't provide you a male heir, just accuse him of witchcraft and have him beheaded, metaphorically speaking. Let him go. Matt Buser gave you a bunch of excellent replacement names last week, including Ryan Shealy, Ty Wigginton, and Kevin Youkilis. They're all qualified at first, they're all likely to be better than league-average in a few categories, and they're all free agents in more than 50 percent of Yahoo! leagues. Go add one.

Unbelievably, at least to me, the number two starter in Minnesota's rotation, Boof Bonser, is owned in fewer than 10 percent of Yahoo! leagues. He matches up tomorrow with another lightly-owned yet potentially useful fantasy starter, Baltimore's Daniel Cabrera. If I were streaming in a public league, I'd be all over those two. It absolutely amazes me Bonser is 7.7 percent owned while Mark Buehrle is 87.7 percent owned. There's probably some auto-pickery going on there, but still. Bonser's upside is greater, isn't it? In a public mixed league, you can take almost unlimited chances with unproven, high-upside players. There's no penalty for it because there will always be acceptable, replacement-level talent on the waiver wire. That's why I'm a Bonser owner in the 13-team Y! Friends and Family League.

That's also why I've ranked Howie Kendrick like I'm his mom. If he's a total bust in your public league – and he won't be – either Wigginton, Chris Burke, Luis Castillo, Jose Vidro, Jose Lopez or some other acceptable second basemen are going to be available. So take the guy who looks like a 20-20 candidate and a .320 hitter. If he's not, move on.

A few more thoughts while you're trying to either A) sell high on Tom Glavine, or B) buy low on Chris Carpenter, neither of which will work:

David Eckstein was an excellent single-serving add for my NL-only squad last night, going 3-for-4 and driving in the Cardinals only run. He's off my roster now, replaced by Dmitri Young who, just maybe, will reclaim the title of least-bad fantasy player on a very bad team. Dude was quietly useful in 2003 for 119-loss Detroit Tigers.

Mike Jacobs is hitting clean-up for the Marlins, at least against right-handers. Hitting ahead of him? Hanley Ramirez, Dan Uggla, and Miguel Cabrera. I'm not sure Jacobs can avoid 100 RBI. He's 2.1 percent owned.

If Bonser is the add for Tuesday, Brandon McCarthy (3.3 percent owned) at Anaheim and Jake Westbrook (33.3 percent) at Chicago look like Wednesday's best pitching adds. Jeremy Sowers (37.0) looks like your best bet for Thursday.

It's my daughter's Spring Break this week, so we're in California. Are we warm? No. Instead, we're skiing. This is a sport that combines two of my least favorite things: cold weather and falling down mountains. So I'm back in the condo watching the Devil Rays. Elijah Dukes (0.2) just hit bomb off Carl Pavano, and B.J. Upton (13.9) followed with a sharp single and a stolen base. Tampa Bay is going to be a buffet of fantasy talent this year.

Thursday we'll be in southern California and, yes, we will attend Bartolo Colon's opening night start for Rancho Cucamonga. Expect a thorough report on Friday.

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